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Photograph of W. Kopsen and Company building

Date: c 1906
Overall: 246 x 230 mm
Image: 165 x 218 mm
Medium: Black and white photograph
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from Mary Wear
Object Name: Photograph
Object No: AX001195

User Terms

    Photograph of a cart with the first load of 'Australian Machine Made Pioneer Oars' in front of William Kopsen's Chandlery on Castlereagh street, Sydney circa 1906.

    SignificanceThis photograph is a rare record of an important figure in Australian maritime industries and and well known for his chandler and oar-making business. Kopsen's operated from the 1870s.
    HistoryWilliam Kopsen (1847-1930) was born in Sweden and migrated to Sydney in 1868. He began a maritime industry related life by purchasing a small boat and trading along the Clarence River in northern NSW, then in 1870 joining a misionary vessel to Fiji where he found work transporting cargo.

    In 1875 he establisehd W. Kopsen & Co., wtih J. C. Smith to import and trade in textiles and general merchandise. After a period distinguished by his anthropological interests and community service in British colony of Fiji, Kopsen settled in Sydney and carried on his ship-chandler business in Clarence street. From 1905, the business was known as W. Kopsen & Co.

    After a tour of the Snowy Mountains he became interested in the timber, mountain ash, and in 1906 he built a plant at Auburn where he tested the ash for its suitability for oars and implement handles. Kopsen established a factory at Laurel Hill, near Batlow in southern NSW where he commenced manufacturing his 'Pioneer Oars'.

    By 1927, Kopsen was contracted to government departments and apparently always had 10,000 oars on hand for delivery within Australia and the Pacific. Kopsen did much to revive the Australian timber industry and to reduce domination by American imports.

    Kopsen was well known for his service for the Swedish Chamber of Commerce and honorary vice-consul for Sweden. In 1914 he was largely responsible for erecting a monument to another Swede, Daniel Solander of Cook's voyage, at Kurnell.

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